EISA Workhop from 1st.-4th July 2020 in Brüssel

CfP als PDF: "Strangeness as an Asset - Self-Reflexivity in Global Social and Development Policy"

7th European Workshops in International Studies Brussels, 1-4 July 2020

Submission of abstracts until 13/01/2020 through EISA 

John Berten, University of Tübingen,

Anna Wolkenhauer, University of Bremen,

Aiming at reducing poverty, a myriad of specialised experts in international organisations and beyond produce large amounts of evidence in countries of the Global South, formulating policy recommendations based on ever more sophisticated models and tools designed to maximise effectiveness and ensure efficient spending for desired outcomes. Scholars of social policy and development frequently use quantitative knowledge as a research tool, without reflecting on the conditions of its production. Being closely intertwined, the spheres of policy and the academe in global social policy and development (GSP&D) provide an insightful example of the constitutive role of knowledge production for policies – and ultimately societal relations.

Yet, practices of knowledge and evidence production in GSP&D are undertheorised. Policy diffusion theory, for instance, assumes an unproblematic transmission of policies across borders, not offering insights on how experiences are turned into policy ideas in the first place or how policy knowledge is transformed into objects ready to be transferred to other sites. More particularly, it does not reflect on the limits and power implications of particular disciplines’ ways of knowledge production, including conceptions of objective and neutral knowledge.

From studies inspired by STS we know that power and authority operate in (policy) knowledge production in various ways. As part of a 'politics by other means', (Latour 1988), the knowledge-policy relationship is characterized by assemblages between varied actors, technologies, materials and (performative) practices. Thereby, STS highlights that every knowing means transformation, because every representation of the 'world out there' is actually an intervention in the world, and not least the choice of one’s research methods has real effects.

Nowadays, IR reflexively debates its own colonial origins, racialised power relations and silencing of non-Western contributions. In a constructivist sense, reflexivity matters for critically examining knowledge-power relations within IR as a discipline itself, as well as for studying its research objects. Yet, to free reflexivity from its “meta-theoretical entrapment” (Hamati-Ataya 2013), theoretical elaborations need to be complemented by empirical studies of knowledge production in GSP&D, with the aim to imagine potentially more emancipatory research practices. Due to the intertwined roles of academics in the Global North and policy researchers operating in the Global South, the case of GSP&D is well suited for studying knowledge production from a self-reflexive stance – in IR and beyond.

The workshop welcomes participants interested in exploring the myriad knowledge-power relationships in social policy and/or development, including possibilities for putting reflexivity into (research) action. Ideally, participants should be willing to contribute to a joint publication. Potential questions include:

How can we reflexively theorise knowledge-production in GSP&D?

  • What theoretical approaches shed light on the intimate relationship between knowledge and power?
  • How do different types of knowledge communicate in GSP&D?
  • How can racial and postcolonial asymmetries be factored into the analysis?
  • What kind of world are GSP&D scholars creating, and how? Are there alternatives?


How can IR’s meta-theoretical reflexivity inform emancipatory empirical research?

  • What does self-reflexivity mean for our own (field) research?
  • What kind of reflexive findings could matter for a world beyond the discipline of IR?
Poster: War against the planetPoster: War against the planet
Krieg gegen den Planeten und die Perspektiven von Weltordnungspolitik an Kipppunkten der menschlichen Entwicklung

The 5th Dieter-Senghaas-Lecture will take place on November 27, 2019 in the Olbers-Saal in the Haus der Wissenschaft (7 pm). Prof. Dr. Birgit Mahnkopf talks about the "war against the planet". The event is supported by the Landeszentrale für Politische Bildung Bremen. All interested people are cordially invited.

You can download the poster here (in pdf or png format).

Depending on their geographical and social origins, people have become a "geological factor", albeit to varying degrees, which has upset the climate balance of the Earth system and thus destroyed the "web of life" that has developed over billions of years. With the inclusion of all regions of the world in the economic and ecological system of capitalism, humanity now seems to have arrived at the "planetary threshold" identified by climate researchers. Beyond this threshold, irreversible massive and sudden consequences must be expected for all living beings: A development path towards a "hothouse" state that could last for tens to hundreds of thousands of years.

Is it conceivable that a progressive human development is possible under the conditions of collapsing ecosystems and an essential lack of "treasures of nature" that are indispensable for us? How likely is it that civilization of unavoidable conflicts and contemporary tolerance will emerge? In short, can we imagine a "world order in the fragmented world" (Dieter Senghaas) that gives peace a future or do we not have to understand the global problems as elements of a systemic crisis of capitalism that cannot be solved within this system?

Birgit Mahnkopf is Professor of European Social Policy at the Berlin School of Economics and Law. She is a member of the scientific advisory board of attac Deutschland, the board of trustees of the Institut Solidarische Moderne, and the advisory board of the Open Access journal Momentum Quarterly. Her work focuses on the economic, political and social dimensions of globalization as well as on European and international politics. She also deals with sociology of work and industrial relations as well as with economics and politics of education.

With this lecture series, the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS) and the Landeszentrale für Politische Bildung Bremen honour the life and work of the internationally renowned peace and conflict researcher, who has been teaching at the University of Bremen since 1978 and is the founder of InIIS. With the "civilising hexagon" he developed, which emphasises the possibilities of peaceful development in and between societies, he has created a paradigm that has made it into the Abitur tasks of German pupils and into the most important textbooks of international relations. His book "Zivilisierung wider Willen" ("Civilization Against Will") on the long and difficult process of sustainable peace-building in Europe has been translated into numerous languages, including Chinese, Arabic and Korean. His oeuvre includes 35 books written by him as well as 35 other books in which he was involved as editor or co-author.

Poster Poster "Guest Lecture Beate Jahn"
Guest Lecture With Beate Jahn

Guest Lecture, 25.11.2019, von 14:00-16:00 Uhr,  
InIIS, UNICOM, Somerville-Str. 7, Raum 7.2210).
Poster for Downlooad (PDF)

 Critical theory was originally designed in response to the experience of populism in the 1930s. No wonder, then, that many writers interpret the return of populism today as a failure of critical theory – giving rise to a debate about its shortcomings and to suggestions for reform. This paper shares the goal of this debate: to identify the tasks of critical theory in times of Brexit and Trump. But it departs from the current debate in two ways: by providing an empirical analysis that shows that critical theory – contra common assumptions – has been politically very successful; and by providing a thorough reconstruction of Horkheimer’s core assumptions underpinning critical theory and its relationship to political practice. This reveals that while critical theory was always intended to have a political impact, it could never guarantee the outcome. Indeed, in the process of shaping historical development, critical theory inevitably becomes part of a new reality that must be subjected to further critique. It is therefore reflection on its own success that allows critical theory to unlock an account of the new historical realities today and to regain its critical edge: not through the reform of its core assumptions but through their application to a new historical conjuncture.

Beate Jahn is Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex and President of the European International Studies Association (EISA).